Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The world of tomorrow

“The clothes I prefer, I invent them for a life that doesn’t exist yet – the world of tomorrow.”

Pierre Cardin came from obscurity but very quickly became one of the top fashion designers in the world.

He was the trailblazer for the soft and floppy fashion look of the 1950s and 1960s, but in the latter decade his designs became increasingly fanciful, with bright colors and wild "Space Age" influences.

Knowing that some of his customers would not wear many of the avant-garde creations that he was producing, however, he soon began designing more traditional lines for department stores and retail outlets.

Having literally invented the concept of designer fashion for men, he paved the way for other future giants like Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani who were able to start their careers as men's designers - a discipline that before Cardin, didn't exist. He even invented the Beatles "look", designing their collarless jackets.

Monsieur Cardin continually changed and expanded the world of fashion with his creations over the years, and at 89 years old is considered a living legend in the fashion industry.

Pierre Cardin in the 1950s

From the BBC
Pierre Cardin came to Paris during World War II.

He was an exceptionally handsome young man. "My physique was what the times regarded as desirable," he says.

He began his career making costumes for the film-maker Jean Cocteau. Christian Dior took him under his wing and he launched his own label in 1950.

Our conversation takes us back to the golden years. How did he get on with the other great names like Yves Saint Laurent?

"They looked down on me, you know," he says. "I would invite them out, but they would never invite me back."

In 1959, Cardin courted their further contempt when he launched the first ever "pret-a-porter" (ready-to-wear) show for the mass market. Later he went into merchandising in a major way, with hundreds of Cardin franchises all over the world, many of them not exactly top-of-the-range.

But today he answers his critics with glee. "Look at me now, I am patron, artisan, proprietaire [owner, manager, craftsman]. Still! Every day I work at my designs, and I control every cent.

"All the others - even if they were alive - their names are now the property of big multi-nationals. They've been taken over.

"And then they accuse me of degrading the brand because there are cheap Cardin shops in India and China. But I know how much a bottle of perfume costs to make. It is nothing!

"I have called their bluff. I am the one who has really brought fashion to the people."

Pierre Cardin's empire is now worth around £900million, and not only includes couture, perfumerie and luxury goods but also world-renowned entertainment venues such as the top restaurant Maxim's of Paris, and a creation of his own imagination, the Palais Bulles (Bubble House) on the Cote d'Azur.

He reportedly intends to sell the whole business, on one condition.
"I want to remain as creative director," he says. "It would be in their interest for the brand's image."

Pierre Cardin website


  1. The future ain't what it used to be.

  2. I don't recall seeing anyone in an orange A-line pinafore, wok hat and kinky boots lately, I must admit... Jx

  3. If that's tomorrow, I'm glad it's today...


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